Actress Karen Allen fondly remembers summers visiting her grandparents in Jersey County, and looks forward to returning to St. Louis on Saturday to premiere her latest film, "Year by the Sea."
She is also receiving a Woman in Film Award from the St. Louis International Film Festival.
For the actress whose first film was "Animal House" in 1978 and will always be remembered as the feisty Marion Ravenwood in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," working on stage and screen continues to be a thrill.
But she's just as happy living as full of a life as possible. Divorced, she has one son, 26.
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Finding her purpose is what drew her to the latest film, "Year by the Sea."
The film is about an empty-nester, who after 30 years of marriage, retreats to Cape Cod for a year instead of relocating with her husband to Kansas.
"I was sent the script, and knew this was a film I would love to be involved in. It was kind of right up my alley. I met the director, it was supposed to be a 15-minute meeting, and we talked for 45-50 minutes," she said.
"It's such a beautifully written story. She wants to know ‘Who am I? What is the value of my life?’’ she said. "It's very much a universal story."
Alexander Janko, the writer, director and composer, said the material also spoke to him.
"Joan's (Anderson) book chose me — it literally appeared on my kitchen counter — and her opening sentence, ‘The decision to separate seemed to happen overnight,’ resonated with my personal and professional crossroads at the time," he said.
"It's never too late to reclaim your life" is a universal sentiment. Not to mention we all experience moments of identity crisis," Janko said.
As for Allen's work, "Karen embodies a free soul and effervescent spirit that lights up the big screen. She's also a devoted mother and phenomenal actress who can keep our interest for nearly two hours of a very character-driven, inner-journey film," he said.
The film has been well-received on the festival circuit, with four audience awards among others, and Allen has been honored with four acting awards — and there's more to go.
"It's lovely to be a part of. At the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, they had to add three more showings, there was such a demand for it. It's very satisfying," she said.
"So many films are about nothing, just empty experiences. I want to see a film about something worthwhile," she said by phone from her Massachusetts farm.
Allen splits her time between a 1792 farmhouse in the Berkshire Mountains and an apartment in New York City.
She considers herself a storyteller, and has written plays and poetry.
"I stay very involved in theater and I have an ongoing involvement in a theater company," she said. "I started directing 10 years ago, and I find it exciting and great."
She is thrilled to see plays come to life. "There is a world full of really great literature," she said.
Allen, 65, was born in Carrollton, Ill. Her mother was from Jerseyville and her father from Roodhouse. His FBI work took them to other cities.
"My parents met at Illinois College in Jacksonville. I think I was literally conceived at Washington University, where my father went after they were married," she said.
"I was very young when we moved. After he went off to Quantico, and we lived in Knoxville, Tenn., every summer of my life we'd pile in the station wagon and come here," she said.
She also spent time here filming "King of the Hill," during a scalding hot summer, she recalled.
As for “Animal House,” she enjoys still getting together with the cast for special screenings and anniversary gatherings.
"It's almost always everybody, and it's always good to be with each other. We really have fun," she said.
"Starman" remains a favorite too. "I loved working with Jeff Bridges, and would love to do something with him again," she said.
She didn't realize "The Sandlot" was such a beloved classic until she worked with some 20-somethings in a play.
"They could not stop talking about it. I spent a week shooting it. I played the part of the mom," she said.
But "Raiders" is the one everyone mentions. "It's one of those beloved movies, and it's taken on a life of its own. She is such a feisty, heroic, interesting character," she said.
Returning for the "Crystal Skulls" sequel was a joy.
"It was so much fun. Usually you work with a whole bunch of people and you think well, I will never see them again, but with sequels, you have a rare opportunity to go back and work with them, and it's a familiar place, and you settle into a comfort zone. It's really quite lovely," she said.
Never content to be idle, she has been involved with a short film based on a Carson McCullers' story called "A Tree, A Rock, a Cloud." She hopes to submit it to Sundance and other festivals. McCullers died in 1967, at age 50, so the Carson McCullers Center will celebrate the works of her life on the 100th anniversary Feb. 17, 2017, and will show it.
"This has been the past two and a half years of my life. I'm really proud of it," she said.
"Year by the Sea"
What: Show of Karen Allen’s new film, with a question-and answer-session afterwards
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis
Karen Allen file
Animal House 1978
The Wanderers 1979
East of Eden 1981 (TV)
Shoot the Moon 1982
The Glass Menagerie
Malcolm X 1992
King of the Hill 1993
The Sandlot 1993
The Perfect Storm 2000
In the Bedroom 2001